Message Boards Message Boards

Retreat Centers

Advice for Panditarama-lumbini

Toggle
Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
goenka meditation practice advice meditation retreat retreat advice panditarama nepal retreat
Answer
11/26/19 2:41 AM
Hello all,
Pasted below is the email I wrote (but haven't yet sent) to Panditarama Lumbini as application to come on retreat for 1-3 months. I would deeply appreciate it if any of you have any advice on whether or not Panditarama seems like a good fit for me; any specific information I should include, exclude, or rephrase in the application; general practice advice or encouragement; and to help me know if I'm ready for a longer retreat (I dont meet the Goenka 20 day requirements, so am I getting ahead of myself intending to go on retreat for 30-90 days?). If this post is not in the right place or should be cross posted elsewhere for visibility, please feel free to move it or let me know.

Also, any of you who have been to panditarama, do you have any advice on preparing myself to be there for quite some time? Am I communicating with them through the proper channels by emailing them at panditarama.lumbini@gmail.com? I've seen a few posts that mentioned they were unresponsive to various methods of communication. Is there actually a specific questionnaire type application that I'm just not seeing on their website?

If you think that Panditarama is not the right choice for me right now, can you recommend any other centers in India or Southeast Asia that might be a better fit? I'm interested in some of the Thai monasteries that hold 28 day retreats which are specifically oriented at attaining stream entry. I've had some feedback that Thai monks tend to be more into the sectarian religious side of things though, and that communication in English is often problematic. I'm definitely drawn to the idea of learning from the German monk who runs Panditarama, as I have heard very positive things about his encouraging, direct, pragmatic, step by step instruction for investigation of reality as it is experienced by each student, wherever he or she may be.

Sidenote, I'm staying in Rishikesh until the end of January 2020 doing a 500 hour yoga training. If anyone is in the area and would be interested in meeting up for dhamma talk/group sits, get in touch. Also, Mooji is going to be in Rishikesh for two weeks at the end of February. Has anyone sat with him/experienced his teachings that would recommend I put off going on retreat until the end of February in order to go experience his teachings first hand? I have no experience with advaita but have heard positive things about him and I am curious to know what it would be like to interact with someone who claims to have reached the final goal.

Thanks in advance to those of you who read through all of this. Metta.


Greetings,
I would like to apply to come on retreat at Panditarama for some time. I would ideally arrive in Lumbini in early February and stay for at least 30 days. I would like to leave the exact duration of my stay flexible depending on my progress and the guidance of the instructors there. I could stay for a maximum of 90 days on the 3 month tourist visa. Alternatively, if there is not room in early February, I could come in early in March, or next fall after the monsoon season. I am a US citizen who would be arriving from India where I have a 10 year multi entry visa. I presently have no external commitments or responsibilities to speak of.
I have been meditating in the Goenka Vipassana tradition for approximately 15 months. In this time I have sat 4 ten day courses, 1 eight day Satipatthana Sutta course, 3 one day courses, and have just completed a 21 day pilgrimage through northern India and Nepal in which the group meditated for an average of 3-4 hours per day. In addition to this I have served 6 ten day courses and numerous in between course service periods while I was living at the Southern California Vipassana Center from the 7th of November 2018 through the 10th of March 2019, with some breaks to visit family for the holidays.  From the beginning of this service period through the 10th of May 2019 I maintained a daily practice of at least 2 hours a day, though much more while living at the center. At this time I largely stopped practicing due to long working hours and a lack of effort on my part. I began practicing again for at least 2 hours a day on October 18th 2019, and find the I usually sit either 2 or 3 hours each day depending on the day.

Since the middle of last winter I have found curiosity growing in me to explore alternative approaches to Vipassana meditation than are offered in the Goenka Vipassana tradition. I find myself drawn to the approach outlined by Mahasi Sayadaw in the book “Fundamentals of Vipassana Meditation”, as well as the concentration training system detailed by Culadasa in “The Mind Illuminated”. I especially find the positive and encouraging step by step detailed guidance of TMI to be very helpful. For me, it seems that knowing where I am on the path and how best to work with my current level of proficiency has been very helpful to keep me from trying to jump ahead to more advanced techniques that Im not ready for and to keep craving for progress and frustration at a minimum. I believe that learning directly from a living teacher is the best way for me to become well established in the practice.

Since the 21 day pilgrimage concluded I have been primarily practicing anapanasati as described by Culadasa, working on discerning the beginning and end of each in and out breath, as well as the beginning and end of each pause while smilingly bringing my attention back to the breath sensations whenever I find the mind has wandered or the breath has moved into the background of awareness in favor of some distraction. Depending on the strength of my concentration in any given siting, I am also working on experiencing multiple specific sensations within each in and out breath, and labeling distractions when they arise and captur my attention, or when the mind returns to the breath after wandering. In an attempt to turn some of the concentration i have developed to insight, I have been noticing the impermanent nature of the sensations of breathing and how it is not “I” who directs the mind to wander, nor is it “I” that brings the attention back to the breath — these phenomena unfold on their own, largely based on the relative balance of the mind that I bring in to practice.

I have largely stopped working with the Goenka body scanning method, as I found retrospectively that the body scanning was mostly quite mechanical and produced very little experiential insight. I understand on an intellectual level that all experiential phenomena are impermanent, interdependent/not-self, and unsatisfactory, but this intellectual understanding has not ever truly crossed over to an experiential knowing with the exception of a few brief peak experiences — usually while 7 to 8 days into a 10 day retreat. Peak experiences are useful, but I have found that they are difficult to integrate into a regular working moment-to-moment experiential understanding of the Dhamma.

My overall motivation for meditation works at a couple of levels. On an existential level I am motivated by a deep curiosity to investigate the nature of the mind matter phenomenon in order to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of what it is to be alive. On a smilingly skeptical level I am motivated by a desire to have an experience reality in a way that eradicates any lingering doubt that it is as the teachings say it is. The acceptance and even encouragement of skepticism in the teachings is one of the primary tenets that drew me to the teachings of the Buddha from my very material/rational/scientific background, as it was said, “doubt that which is doubtful” and “come and see for yourself”. I am willing to commit a great deal of time, energy, and resources to the practice of Vipassana, but ultimately I will not believe until I see for myself. Finally, on a pragmatic and psychological level to practice meditation to experience peace and harmony within myself as well as peace and harmony with the world around me. I seek liberation from suffering and a path to be of service to all living beings in whatever way my individual skills and aptitudes are best used in this lifetime. On an interpersonal and societal level, I am motivated because I find that living and practicing with the Sangha to be the most ideal form of communal engagement. The ethics and tenets of social and communal harmony outlined by the Buddha make sense to me and I believe that their small scale application will lead to the creation of a thriving community of practitioners who can also be engaged in alleviating the suffering of beings on an economic, ecological, and cultural level. It is clear to me that an immediate and significant change in the way that the human species is interacting with the world at large if we seek to collectively survive as a species and prosper in harmony with Nature rather than at its expense.

My maps related goal on retreat at Panditarama is to become proficient at entering at least second janna, turning this heightened concentration toward insight, and ultimately to attain stream entry. I understand, however that expectation and craving for attainment/experience is a hindrance to progress, and so I gladly renounce all expectations with the understanding that the process must unfold in its own natural course. There is nothing to be done for a growing tree or a budding flower other than to provide protection, water, and fertile soil, as much as we may desire to see it grow and bloom. I set this goal only to remain focused on where the path is leading to prevent myself from becoming sidetracked.

Some common distractions and hindrances that have been arising for me off and on for some time now are fear around an uncertain future (fear that im wasting my time meditating when I should be accumulating material wealth or career/success in order to create security), "inability to meditate" while on retreat that shifts back and forth between extreme agitation when I sit down to meditate and laziness when I inevitably stop meditating and go lay down to rest, doubt that the practice is productive/well suited to me, doubt in my ability to apply the technique even if it is good/well suited, craving for the aspects of my experience prior to meditation that I remember enjoying or being excited by -- this really feels like nostalgia for the excitement of craving sex/companionship/codependency; for the solace of always listening to music because I was uncomfortable with silence; for the socially shared commiseration/numbing the experience of suffering with substances or distractions such as, useless talk/socializing, entertainment, and unnecessary eating. This last one sometimes leads me to feel like my life is actually less happy/peaceful/harmonious since I began meditating than it was before. I believe the truth of this is that I am now actually experiencing the unsatisfactory nature of identifying myself with transitory phenomena whereas before I was avoiding or numbing myself out of this experience in order to feel happy on the surface. That said, it still sometimes arises as a convincing distraction/hindrance. I also recognize that it may be a rebellious aversion to authority and what appears to me to be dogmatic, restrictive, and sectarian about the Goenka tradition that is driving me away from Goenka and towards exploring other traditions. The list, of course, goes on, but I resolve to do my best to recognize the true nature of these distractions/hindrances when they arise and to set them aside or transform their energy into motivation so that I may practice effectively and continuously while on retreat.

I resolve to work diligently while on retreat, applying whatever instructions/technique I am given to the best of my ability, day and night, sitting, standing, walking or lying.
Thank you for considering my application to come on retreat and to learn the art of Vipassana meditation. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Metta,
David DuMoulin

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/26/19 8:47 AM as a reply to David Louis DuMoulin.
I have no experience with Panditarama, but for what its worth my thoughts are;

20 or 30 days would be a good next retreat length for you, and with option to extend to 90 days would seem ideal.

Our communication style I think is vastly different, but that email seems hugely verbose to me, I'd struggle to read it or respond. Given how bad they supposedly are at responding I'd probably send a very succinct email explaining when and why I want to come, and overview of my practice and experience. But I have no experience so you can discard this if someone else with more information replies

Good luck

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/26/19 1:04 PM as a reply to David Louis DuMoulin.
I also have no direct experience but had the same reaction as Tom C.

Make that email much shorter and easier to read (<30 seconds, bullet points instead of paragraphs, be a bit euphemistic about the goals, etc). Also be prepared to follow up if you don't get a reply after a couple weeks.

The Thai courses you mentioned are a great option if this one doesn't work out.

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/26/19 9:27 PM as a reply to mrdust.
Ditto on the cut that letter way down advice.

You seem to have the impression that they want to know you as a person, like a friend or as someone they will be discussing your practice history with: this is highly unlikely to happen.

Imagine if, when walking into your junior high algebra class, you handed the teacher a long lengthy letter stating something like, "Ok, I was introduced to numbers in kindergarten by Mrs. Smith, then, in first grade, studied addition using a textbook called XXX written by XXX and was taught by Mr. Jones, then in second grade..."

It is highly unlikely they care about anything except, "Will you follow instructions, be respectful, report simply, avoid fancy dharma terms, not be needy, and not flip out?" Beyond that, probably not interested. You can say you have a daily vipassana practice or whatever and know how to sit or something like that.

Don't mention jhanas, as that is not what Mahasi is about. The mention of that word will just annoy them.

Don't mention anything except a sincere interest in learning what they have to teach and following their advice all day long, and, when you get there, do that. Trust me, they won't be interested in discussing any of those other practices or your history.

Best wishes!

Daniel

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/27/19 2:33 PM as a reply to David Louis DuMoulin.
Also don't mention "maps" at all. They only care about the Progress of Insight map, and they don't like it when students think they can place themselves on it (even though the Sayadaws constantly talk about it in dhamma talks), as they believe it can cause problems with expectations, among other things. It's best not to mention your technical knowledge at all in the letter or in interviews. If you're accepted, I suggest learning their reporting format for interviews in advance. Mahasi tradition Sayadaws like that better than anything.

You can google for the Mahasi reporting format. There are also extensive dhamma talks online explaining it. If you're interested, I can find one.

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/27/19 11:25 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Hi, yes, as said above. Trim the letter to a minimum. Avoid terms like "maps",  "Jhana", "stream entry", "progress", "online forums", "DhO", "MCTB", "TMI", etc. The more you mention these words,  lesser the chances they take you in. Never ever mention these things even during interviews. 

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/28/19 2:12 AM as a reply to tamaha.
Thank you all so much for your feedback. I'll trim down my life story to something more immediately relevant and bite sized. Would you recommend that I start practicing noting on my own to get ready for the retreat, or to keep on working on the TMI stages to sharpen concentration and wait to get proper instruction in Mahasi once I arrive?

Thanks Jigme! If you know of a good video describing the reporting style, I think that would be very useful. If not, im sure i can find one.

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/28/19 7:34 AM as a reply to David Louis DuMoulin.
There are lots of talks by the teacher. Several including the formal instructions. I would switch at least a month or two in advance

https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/186/

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/28/19 10:48 AM as a reply to David Louis DuMoulin.
David Louis DuMoulin:

Thanks Jigme! If you know of a good video describing the reporting style, I think that would be very useful. If not, im sure i can find one.

You're welcome! Here's a recording of a talk on how and what to report: Sayadaw U Thuzana - Yogi's Report during Interview 9/29/2014

It's worth asking them for a very brief summary of the noting format in your first report and then asking if you did it properly.

You asked about starting it now vs starting at the retreat. Since you're labelling distractions as part of TMI, you're already noting. If you switch to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen and all of the most obvious associated sensations instead of following the breath at the nostrils, are you able to maintain the momentum of your attention? Are you able to note whether sensations are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? You've noticed when breath sensations slip into the background and attention focuses on something else, are you able to come up with vocabulary to note those physical sensations, emotions and other mind states and types of thoughts? Are you able to follow the most obvious present moment mental or physical sensation in that way and just return to the abdomen in the absence of anything else or when it's the most obious object?

Here's one exercise the sayadaws tend to assign: what does noting do to a sensation? Does noting it cause it to change? Does noting a sensation cause it to become stronger (more obvious, clearer) as you note it? Does it eventually go away? Can you follow it until then? Does another object of attention replace it as the obvious sensation?

The first gear part of this article is a good description of what to note:

Kenneth Folk's quick start guide

One thing that Kenneth's article doesn't mention and that TMI and U Thuzana's talk mention is meditation on the four elements. Here are the characteristics of the elements. You can note them:
Wind: pushing, supporting
Earth: hardness/softness, roughness/smoothness, heaviness/lightness
Fire: hot, cold
Water: Flowing, cohesiveness (in the sense of sticking together), supposedly these two are deduced from seeing the other elements.

Before you find the retreat to be meditator jail, it's worth figuring out if you like noting. If you can note once a second for an hour, then you'll be in a good position to figure out if the technique is for you. A lot of people find that exhausting at first, even though they were good at another technique, namely TMI. It's worth seeing if you can translate your attentional stability skills from TMI, the attention to detail and management of mental energy (as in dullness vs alertness).

There are a lot of noting strategies, though don't call it that in an interview, because you're supposed to look at the most obvious thing that comes up rather than choosing sensations. Having those tools in the toolkit helps to take advantage of moments and sensations that are unpleasant or repetitive. You don't have to start with all of that. Like in TMI, you can start with the simplest version of the technique, just note rising and falling, seeing if your TMI skills can work with rising and falling, breaking down your TMI samatha into moment-to-moment noticing of the abdomen (it's like the stage 6 close following, but with labels), and then add noting noting mental and physical sensations that take you off of that, then add the elements, then add noting strategies, as needed as you find that each step has become second nature. If you practice before your retreat, you'll have time to ask about those ways of looking here and debug your process or read about them in Seeing that Frees or Shinzen Young's PDFs (though don't note at the Mahasi retreat with Shinzen's labels). I made the mistake of not doing a lot of noting before my first Mahasi retreat. I was very confused. Knowing what I was doing the second time made a huge difference.

Finally, you mentioned reading Mahasi Sayadaw's Fundamentals of Vipassana Meditation. I strongly recommend reading his Practical Insight Meditation and practicing according to how he recommends. It's available for free online.

I hope that helps.

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/30/19 1:33 AM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Jason Massie:
There are lots of talks by the teacher. Several including the formal instructions. I would switch at least a month or two in advance

https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/186/


Thanks Jason! I hadn't run in to dharmaseed.org, looks like its a really treasure trove!

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
11/30/19 1:50 AM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Wow Jigme! Thanks for a lot of great feedback and information. I look forward to exploring and integrating as I'm able.

Something that has come up in the noting aspects of TMI is that the act of coming up with vocabulary for a distraction or a sensation often shifts the attention away from that distraction/sensation. As well, when working with noting the composite pieces of the breath, the words i use to note it often feel distracting, such that I sometimes prefer to visualize the breath rather than verbalizing it. It feels like that verbal part of my consciousness is both too gross and too slow to keep up with and remain subtle enough for subtle experiences. I imagine this will become more natural and less distracting once I'm more familiar with noting.

Your feedback is making me wonder if this is the right time/I'm ready for a long noting retreat, however. Tomorrow I will be starting a 2 month yoga training that has a quite rigorous schedule, so I dont think I'll be able to fit in more than about an hour of extra meditation per day. The yoga training lasts until the end of January and I was planning to take about 2 weeks off to relax and travel, but then head straight for Panditarama and stay there for 1-3 months. Now I'm wondering if it might be better to postpone my retreat at Panditarama until Fall so I can spend some time exploring the available techniques and checking in with the DHO community for feedback and advice. And, as you say, better to know that the noting technique is a good fit before I put myself in jail for a month.

thanks again for a lot of good food for thought!
David

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
12/2/19 6:07 PM as a reply to David Louis DuMoulin.
Hi there,

After a month-long retreat in Panditarama Lumbini this september/october, I can only back the advice of making sure this is a good fit for you before going.

But first I want to start by asking a question, to you, but it's more general. Consider this : about half the people who go to lumbini are from the states or europe. We can reasonably assume thet everyone takes a plane to go there and back, and knowing that the average length of a retreat there is about a month, that means we can count two thousands-of-kms-long flights per person per month. Multiply that by, if I remember correctly, an average presence of 25 yogis a month. Lastly, let's take into account just how terribly polluted Nepal is, Lumbini included - Kathmandu is, after all, the first or second most polluted city in the world - leaving aside the fact that the current global states of life on earth (very bad) depends directly on pollution. Then my question is this : does the progress we make in meditation and the (supposed) positive outcomes of it balance the (undeniable) collective harm done by dumping thousands of tons of CO2 (edit : maybe I got the math wrong there ^^ "tens of tons", perhaps ? hundreds ?) into the atmosphere while pursuing these ?

This should be a genuine concern for anyone interested in ethical behaviour, which I think is everyone here.



Other questions, basically unrelated to the previous : What is it exactly that you want for yourself ? Who inspires you, who do you want to be like ? These are important questions and should determine which persons exactly you dim are inspiring enough, for you, in all honesty, that you would put yourself in this kind of extreme teaching situation, where you are going to be in a very vulnerable position for a long time, that is probably gonna leave a durable mark on your being, for better or worse, wether you realize it or not. Think about it seriously. emoticon Only you can know what your actual needs are.

This is a one-size fits all kind of place, not so subtle, in a way unrefined. The word is : Hardcore.

What do you think you'll get there that you don't already have ? What do you think going from observing your whole body for 12h a day to observing your stomach and then your feet for 12h a day will change ? Do you believe the path is about exerting an evermore intense effort as you progress through the degrees of enlightenment, as Vivekananda does ? Incidentally, a 10 min interview per day with someone who doesn't know you and doesn't want to know you, whom you will never speak with again in your daily life, will do you what good, exactly ? Do you think that this specific teacher will make such a difference as to justify going all the way to Nepal for this ?

(Disclaimer : I liked Vivekananda a lot, and it turns out he actually did seem interested in me personally, at least during the last interview ^^ But honestly, I definitely wasn't so impressed by his teaching)

I know this will probably be an unpopular opinion, but if like me you have read mctb, other books, dharma talks, online forums, and in particular, read hundreds of detailed reports by other sincere and devoted yogis from all over the world - then my opinion is that you probably have everything you need already... Think about it. This place and the resources we have are incredibly valuable, such transparency has never existed in this way before, and will again not be easily available some time in the future, probably sooner than we think. Know where you are, what your needs, perspectives and ideals are, what your own peculiar opinion of what practice is about is. What your dream, your goal actually is, with all this. We should acknowledge these things, as well as the fact that a bunch of real-life experience of practice we get access to actually contradicts much of the dogma we have read.

Do you believe in reincarnation ? In the fact that the buddha had the physical strength of 100 000 horses ? In the fact that he had all these powers and did all these things ? 

Listen to Vivekananda's talks on dharmaseed, as basically they are an exposition of abidhamma and commentaries, and suttas. Get a feeling of the guy. He is a great scholar, but if you've read and liked mctb, and other contemporary dharma books such as TMI (which I haven't read), you would probably find his talks boring most of the time and very rigidly dogmatic and uncritical in many ways, though there is always some gold nuggets in them. Also know that Sayalay is nothing like him - after all, a westerner with a somehow open mind and very educated - she is very very dogmatic and traditional. ;)

If you do decide to go, then here is some advice to consider :

  *If you have any realizations, I would actually advise you tell them. Not upfront in you email (for that, be simple - I just said I wanted to get enlightened for the sake of all being. They don't have a drastic selection process and everybody can go there, basically. There are absolute beginners as well as more experienced practicioners.) but say it in the paper they make you fill up at the beginning of your retreat. If they kick you out because you said this, then they are hypocrits, and you are better off somewhere else. They won't, though.

The reason I'm saying this is that, when I did decide and mustered up the courage to tell Sayadaw about my SE, on day 16 of my 28-day retreat, even though he said it made no difference practically, his instructions changed completely and from then on were meeting me exactly where I was - which had not been the case before, as he had been giving me practice instructions fit for a beginner, which caused an enormous amount of frustration for me, that could have been avoided. Can't be certain this is what made the instructions change, but I have a feeling that...

(Well, in fact his first reaction was to tell me that his teacher Sayadaw U Pandita would say to wait seven years before assessing SE, and to look at morality for "proof", as, according to dogma, a stream-entrant would be utterly incapable of breaking the precepts, and so for instance, would never ever ever wilfully drink a glass of beer. I personnally find this notion almost comical...)


  *Remember they both are monks. They're doing a great job running this center, but they are living according to a set of rules so drastic that the atmosphere of restriction and repression is definitely palpable. I don't know what your inclinations are, what your sensitivity is, but this atmosphere seeps through regardless. Personally, although I have deep respect for their life choice, the fact that they made it means that they have values and beliefs that I can't possibly agree with. This should be given more consideration than usually is... The choice of who we chose as a teacher is very important. Respect yourself.

**caution : this next paragraph contains flamable questions**
The technique these guys teach, and the way they teach it - in fact, the whole way these retreats are conceived - aren't they inherently life-denying, and designed to cause disenchantment with the world ? They have that built-in them in a way, because they emanate from certain values, notions of what is desirable and undesirable, which are directly connected to the worldview of those who invented them. They do work as advertised. Is this really what you want ?  The professed goal of buddhism is actually to end it all. Do we realize what this means ? One could argue that it's litteraly the only way to commit suicide - more than sui-cide, existencide - for someone who believes in reincarnation. I'm the first to reject claims that buddhism is nihilistic, and philosophically it's not, but in terms of ethos it kind of is. A good life in the here and the now is basically only a side-effect of this primary emphasis. I realize most people who practice vipassana do not believe that, and do not seek that, me included. I'm not saying at all that this is the case. But it's a bit disturbing to think that the people who invent and teach the techniques which we practice regardless, actually do think that life, in the sense of being, of existing, has no value, and that enlightenment is the ending of becoming, as the highest possible goal. Crazy stuff.


  *Know that they put a huge emphasis on effort, and are incredibly strict when it comes to the application of their technique. In my opinion, way way way too strict, in an almost unhealthy way. Anything other than exactly their instructions will be discouraged as "experimenting", which is apparently a bad thing... Curiosity is also not talked about at all. From a westerner's perspective, it's hard to understand this teaching style, unless you get a kick out of the boot camp feel, or buy into the idea that this is what great practice is about... They are - well, she is - from a very different culture. Cultural differences exist and matter.


Not trying to bum you out, this is just what i've learned from my experience, as well as questions worthy of investigation IMHO.

What about finding a teacher willing to engage in a relationship with you, that is, someone who will follow you regularly, get to know you as the person you are, over a longer period of time ? Maybe that would make more of a difference ? This is what I'm thinking for myself, recognizing and respecting the facts that I have a cultural bagage, a college education, etc.

Best of wishes for your practice and life David !

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
12/2/19 7:13 AM as a reply to David Louis DuMoulin.
Hey David, I think I can make the decision whether or not to go to Lumbini in early 2020 a bit easier for you. I emailed them a few days ago to check if they were accepting visitors again (because they had some visa issues for a while and a lot of pending applications). A week later they emailed me this reply:
Hello,Thank you so much for inquiring about the retreat possibility.  However, the center will be closed in those months, and reopen in July.  Kind regards 
Teachers 

Also, I appreciate you sharing your original message & background (although it certainly is too lengthy for a retreat application emoticon ). I can relate to it. Wishing you the best of luck with your yoga training and with finding a place to take retreat.

EDIT: after rereading... I was specifically enquiring about April - May. So maybe they are still open in Jan/Feb/March 2020?

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
12/2/19 10:07 AM as a reply to Olivier.
Olivier:
Hi there,

After a month-long retreat in Panditarama Lumbini this september/october, I can only back the advice of making sure this is a good fit for you before going.

But first I want to start by asking a question, to you, but it's more general. Consider this : about half the people who go to lumbini are from the states or europe. We can reasonably assume thet everyone takes a plane to go there and back, and knowing that the average length of a retreat there is about a month, that means we can count two thousands-of-kms-long flights per person per month. Multiply that by, if I remember correctly, an average presence of 25 yogis a month. Lastly, let's take into account just how terribly polluted Nepal is, Lumbini included - Kathmandu is, after all, the first or second most polluted city in the world - leaving aside the fact that the current global states of life on earth (very bad) depends directly on pollution. Then my question is this : does the progress we make in meditation and the (supposed) positive outcomes of it balance the (undeniable) collective harm done by dumping thousands of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere while pursuing these ?

This should be a genuine concern for anyone interested in ethical behaviour, which I think is everyone here.



Other questions, basically unrelated to the previous : What is it exactly that you want for yourself ? Who inspires you, who do you want to be like ? These are important questions and should determine which persons exactly you dim are inspiring enough, for you, in all honesty, that you would put yourself in this kind of extreme teaching situation, where you are going to be in a very vulnerable position for a long time, that is probably gonna leave a durable mark on your being, for better or worse, wether you realize it or not. Think about it seriously. emoticon Only you can know what your actual needs are.

This is a one-size fits all kind of place, not so subtle, in a way unrefined. The word is : Hardcore.

What do you think you'll get there that you don't already have ? What do you think going from observing your whole body for 12h a day to observing your stomach and then your feet for 12h a day will change ? Do you believe the path is about exerting an evermore intense effort as you progress through the degrees of enlightenment, as Vivekananda does ? Incidentally, a 10 min interview per day with someone who doesn't know you and doesn't want to know you, whom you will never speak with again in your daily life, will do you what good, exactly ? Do you think that this specific teacher will make such a difference as to justify going all the way to Nepal for this ?

(Disclaimer : I liked Vivekananda a lot, and it turns out he actually did seem interested in me personally, at least during the last interview ^^ But honestly, I definitely wasn't so impressed by his teaching)

I know this will probably be an unpopular opinion, but if like me you have read mctb, other books, dharma talks, online forums, and in particular, read hundreds of detailed reports by other sincere and devoted yogis from all over the world - then my opinion is that you probably have everything you need already... Think about it. This place and the resources we have are incredibly valuable, such transparency has never existed in this way before, and will again not be easily available some time in the future, probably sooner than we think. Know where you are, what your needs, perspectives and ideals are, what your own peculiar opinion of what practice is about is. What your dream, your goal actually is, with all this. We should acknowledge these things, as well as the fact that a bunch of real-life experience of practice we get access to actually contradicts much of the dogma we have read.

Do you believe in reincarnation ? In the fact that the buddha had the physical strength of 100 000 horses ? In the fact that he had all these powers and did all these things ? 

Listen to Vivekananda's talks on dharmaseed, as basically they are an exposition of abidhamma and commentaries, and suttas. Get a feeling of the guy. He is a great scholar, but if you've read and liked mctb, and other contemporary dharma books such as TMI (which I haven't read), you would probably find his talks boring most of the time and very rigidly dogmatic and uncritical in many ways, though there is always some gold nuggets in them. Also know that Sayalay is nothing like him - after all, a westerner with a somehow open mind and very educated - she is very very dogmatic and traditional. ;)

If you do decide to go, then here is some advice to consider :

  *If you have any realizations, I would actually advise you tell them. Not upfront in you email (for that, be simple - I just said I wanted to get enlightened for the sake of all being. They don't have a drastic selection process and everybody can go there, basically. There are absolute beginners as well as more experienced practicioners.) but say it in the paper they make you fill up at the beginning of your retreat. If they kick you out because you said this, then they are hypocrits, and you are better off somewhere else. They won't, though.

The reason I'm saying this is that, when I did decide and mustered up the courage to tell Sayadaw about my SE, on day 16 of my 28-day retreat, even though he said it made no difference practically, his instructions changed completely and from then on were meeting me exactly where I was - which had not been the case before, as he had been giving me practice instructions fit for a beginner, which caused an enormous amount of frustration for me, that could have been avoided. Can't be certain this is what made the instructions change, but I have a feeling that...

(Well, in fact his first reaction was to tell me that his teacher Sayadaw U Pandita would say to wait seven years before assessing SE, and to look at morality for "proof", as, according to dogma, a stream-entrant would be utterly incapable of breaking the precepts, and so for instance, would never ever ever wilfully drink a glass of beer. I personnally find this notion almost comical...)


  *Remember they both are monks. They're doing a great job running this center, but they are living according to a set of rules so drastic that the atmosphere of restriction and repression is definitely palpable. I don't know what your inclinations are, what your sensitivity is, but this atmosphere seeps through regardless. Personally, although I have deep respect for their life choice, the fact that they made it means that they have values and beliefs that I can't possibly agree with. This should be given more consideration than usually is... The choice of who we chose as a teacher is very important. Respect yourself.

**caution : this next paragraph contains flamable questions**
The technique these guys teach, and the way they teach it - in fact, the whole way these retreats are conceived - aren't they inherently life-denying, and designed to cause disenchantment with the world ? They have that built-in them in a way, because they emanate from certain values, notions of what is desirable and undesirable, which are directly connected to the worldview of those who invented them. They do work as advertised. Is this really what you want ?  The professed goal of buddhism is actually to end it all. Do we realize what this means ? One could argue that it's litteraly the only way to commit suicide - more than sui-cide, existencide - for someone who believes in reincarnation. I'm the first to reject claims that buddhism is nihilistic, and philosophically it's not, but in terms of ethos it kind of is. A good life in the here and the now is basically only a side-effect of this primary emphasis. I realize most people who practice vipassana do not believe that, and do not seek that, me included. I'm not saying at all that this is the case. But it's a bit disturbing to think that the people who invent and teach the techniques which we practice regardless, actually do think that life, in the sense of being, of existing, has no value, and that enlightenment is the ending of becoming, as the highest possible goal. Crazy stuff.


  *Know that they put a huge emphasis on effort, and are incredibly strict when it comes to the application of their technique. In my opinion, way way way too strict, in an almost unhealthy way. Anything other than exactly their instructions will be discouraged as "experimenting", which is apparently a bad thing... Curiosity is also not talked about at all. From a westerner's perspective, it's hard to understand this teaching style, unless you get a kick out of the boot camp feel, or buy into the idea that this is what great practice is about... They are - well, she is - from a very different culture. Cultural differences exist and matter.


Not trying to bum you out, this is just what i've learned from my experience, as well as questions worthy of investigation IMHO.

What about finding a teacher willing to engage in a relationship with you, that is, someone who will follow you regularly, get to know you as the person you are, over a longer period of time ? Maybe that would make more of a difference ? This is what I'm thinking for myself, recognizing and respecting the facts that I have a cultural bagage, a college education, etc.

Best of wishes for your practice and life David !

Hi Oliver,

Thanks for your detailed report. I would be interested in opening a discussion regarding some of the points you made - but not sure if hijacking this thread is the best place.

Have you considered making a new thread about your experience and thoughts outlined in this post?

Tom

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
12/2/19 6:12 PM as a reply to Tom C.
Hi Tom,

I did, but never got around to it as it seemed there was just too much to say... If you have a specific idea and do open a thread, I'll gladly join you there to discuss those points that interest you.

Cheers,

Olivier

RE: Advice for Panditarama-lumbini
Answer
12/3/19 2:34 PM as a reply to David Louis DuMoulin.
David Louis DuMoulin:
Wow Jigme! Thanks for a lot of great feedback and information. I look forward to exploring and integrating as I'm able.

Something that has come up in the noting aspects of TMI is that the act of coming up with vocabulary for a distraction or a sensation often shifts the attention away from that distraction/sensation. As well, when working with noting the composite pieces of the breath, the words i use to note it often feel distracting, such that I sometimes prefer to visualize the breath rather than verbalizing it. It feels like that verbal part of my consciousness is both too gross and too slow to keep up with and remain subtle enough for subtle experiences. I imagine this will become more natural and less distracting once I'm more familiar with noting.
Hi David, you're very welcome! That's a pretty precise description of what happens when you note, so I think it'll be a good fit given more practice. The vocabulary problem tends to go away pretty quickly once you get used to doing an hour or two of noting for a few weeks. You can write a list of the sensations you remember having when meditating and see if they come up again. There's really only so much stuff that can come up. Also, when you're looking for a label, you could be engaged in thinking, investigation or some other mental process. Can you note that? If nothing comes up in terms of a description of a physical sensation, can you note the pleasant, unpleasant, neutral reaction to it? That's called vedana. It can only ever be one of those three words, so you don't have to think about the vocabulary.

Also, where are you at in the TMI stages? Could you say more about your current experience with the breath? Have you considered a mindfulness of breathing retreat? You could go to one of the two Pa Auk retreat centers in Burma and do a retreat there on a technique very similar to what you're already doing. My understanding is that they avoid the changing breath sensations and follow a conceptualized breath like you are. From what I've read, they start with knowing if the breath is long or short. (If anyone reading this has been there and done the technique, I'd be happy to hear more.)

In terms of leveraging your TMI experience to do Mahasi-style vipassana, have you done the stage 5 body scan or the stage 6 whole body breathing? Do you also do "following", as in noticing the beginning and end of in and out breath and the gap between them? I'm asking because it's reasonably easy to explain the basic Mahasi exercise of noting rising and falling of the abdomen and noting all other dominant sensations in terms of those TMI exercises.

I've done a lot of noting and TMI, so if you're interested, when you have time after your yoga course, I'd happy to explain enough over Google Talk or Skype so that you could become comfortable with noting before a Mahasi retreat.

For what it's worth, getting to stage 7 (effortless attention) of TMI makes it much easier to do any kind of vipassana (though vipassana also makes it easier to do any kind of samatha, they are mutually reinforcing if done right) and the physical pliancy of stage 8 makes the sheer amount of cushion-on-the-floor sitting of a month-long retreat a lot easier.

Finally, a Mahasi retreat is half walking meditation. They alternate between walking and sitting every hour. Have you done the TMI walking instructions? They aren't the same due to the awareness instructions and starting at a normal walk pace in TMI and then slowing down, but otherwise they're pretty similar.